(Updated at 10:25 a.m. on 5/24/2023) Construction has begun on a new warehouse for the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) in the Newington area.
The organization, which supports nonprofits and provides meals to residents throughout the D.C. region, broke ground on the 43,000-square-foot distribution facility at 6833 Hill Park Drive, Lorton, on May 15.
Expected to more than double CAFB’s capacity in Northern Virginia, the new warehouse replaces a smaller building on the same site that the food bank says “no longer had the size or efficiencies required to address the area’s rising need.”
“Building an expanded facility in Northern Virginia couldn’t come at a more important time: in the wake of the pandemic and sustained rates of inflation, there are still so many in our community who are struggling to make ends meet and to access enough nutritious food,” CAFB President and CEO Radha Muthiah said. “This building is an investment in the future of thousands of Northern Virginians, both today and in the years to come.”
About 24% of Fairfax County residents reported experiencing food insecurity in 2021, putting it on the lower end of a spectrum that ranged from 21% in Arlington County to 48% in Prince George’s County, according to CAFB’s 2022 Hunger Report.
Expected to be released this September, the next hunger report could tell an even more sobering story after a year of inflation and diminishing public assistance. As of February, food prices were 10% higher than that time last year, CAFB said in its annual report, and the end of emergency SNAP benefits placed new pressure on local food banks.
(Correction: This article previously said the next hunger report is expected this summer. While last year’s report came out in June, CAFB says this year’s will likely be published in September, coinciding with Hunger Action Month.)
Capital Area Food Bank distributed nearly three times as many meals in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic as in the preceding year, Fairfax County leaders said last year. In February 2022, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved a $5 million contribution from its federal Covid relief funds to support to the food bank’s warehouse expansion.
CAFB projects that the project will cost a total of $35 million, which it hopes to cover with both public and private funding. So far, seven localities and Virginia have invested over $9 million, and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Rep. Gerry Connolly, have requested federal Community Project Funding.
“The new 43,000 square-foot facility will be nearly 3.5 times larger than the existing building, allowing the food bank to store and distribute more produce, provide more space for its partner nonprofits to pick up food, and offer volunteering opportunities at its Virginia warehouse for the first time,” CAFB said in a press release.
In addition to hosting a new volunteer center, the warehouse will be larger and more flexible with updated equipment compared to the previous building, which was built in 1982.
The old warehouse’s cooler and storage space had become inadequate, and maintenance was “cost-prohibitive,” CAFB said.
The new building is expected to be completed by late summer 2024.
CAFB isn’t the only local food assistance nonprofit to seek a capacity boost recently. Food for Others opened an addition to its Merrifield warehouse in February that allows clients to shop for groceries.
CAFB distributes more than 50 million meals across the D.C. region annually, according to its website. The organization’s main distribution facility is in northeast D.C.
In the beginning, there were the Brute Red Trash Cans.
The simple, plastic buckets were among the first instruments utilized by the Vienna Jammers, along with PVC pipes, bits of metal and other construction materials lying around Vienna Elementary School.
Fast forward about 17 years, and the student percussion group is getting ready to perform on actual marimbas, hand drums and more with Madonna’s former DJ at Capital One Hall in Tysons for the Big Jam, an annual fundraiser and year-end concert.
Set for 6 p.m. this Saturday (May 13), this year’s concert will celebrate the Jammers’ 10th anniversary as a nonprofit and feature a guest appearance by Eric Jao, also known as DJ Enferno, a Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology alum who has also worked with Shakira and Rihanna.
“It’s gonna be a big blowout. We’ve got lots of cool things planned,” Vienna Jammers Executive Director David Reynolds Jr. said, hinting at team-ups with the Legacy Dance Institute and a marimba-playing robot designed by one of the Jammers’ older students.
Though the performance venues have gotten bigger, and the instruments more polished, the Vienna Jammers haven’t lost touch with the scrappy, experimental spirit that fueled its creation.
During the 2005-2006 school year, Reynolds was working as a music teacher at Vienna Elementary when James Madison High School junior Dave Cohen — known by the group as “Dr. DC” — approached him and proposed starting a percussion ensemble for kids as a community service project.
The Jammers began as an after-school activity with about 20 fifth and sixth-graders playing instruments available in the school, from Orff xylophones to the aforementioned trash cans and construction materials.
Reynolds says the initial focus on “found sounds” and non-traditional instruments came partly out of necessity and partly as a nod to the international group STOMP, which closed out a 29-year run in New York City in January.
“The beauty of the marimba for me and percussion is that I can teach a simple part to one group and then teach another simple part to another group, and then you put those two groups together and it sounds like a very complex piece of music,” Reynolds said. “…It sounds like professional quality stuff, but it’s being created by kids, and so I think that kind of adds to the allure of it.” Read More
Fairfax County Public Library’s annual food drive “Read and Feed” is now underway, replacing the “Food for Fines” program.
The county library system is asking residents to drop off “unexpired, commercially produced food items” as well as new, reusable grocery bags and kitchen tools to any of its 23 branches during their regular operating hours.
Last year, “Read and Feed” replaced the “Food for Fines” program after FCPL stopped charging overdue fines on most materials. The program had given library cardholders a reduction on fines based on the number of donated items.
Donations go to the nonprofit Food For Others (FFO), which will then distribute the items across the county. Food For Others provides food to about 3,000 families and meals to 3,500 FCPS students at 44 schools every week, per the county’s press release.
That represents only a small percentage of students in need, though. There are another 13 schools on the waitlist.
There was about a 30% increase in terms of families that FFO helped between 2021 and 2022, FFO’s director of development and outreach Anna Slaten said in a county press release.
It’s anticipated that inflation over the past year will make the need even greater. Relatedly, donations in the summer of 2022 were down 30% from the previous year.
“With inflation, not just our clients are feeling the effects, but our donors are also,” Slaten said.
Additionally, pandemic-era emergency SNAP benefits ended last month, leaving locals looking for even more help.
FFO recently expanded its Merrifield warehouse to address the growing need.
Library branches across the county are accepting pretty much all canned foods, though there are a few items that FFO needs in particular:
- Canned tomato products (crushed, peeled, diced, etc.), 4 oz. – 1 lb.
- Canned meat (chicken, turkey, or seafood), 2 oz. – 15 oz.
- Rice, 16 oz. packages
- Spaghetti sauce, 14 oz. – 1 lb. (ideally in cans instead of glass)
- Canned fruit (packed in fruit juice instead of syrup) 11 oz. – 20 oz.
- Dried or canned beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.)
- Fruit juice (100% juice) 32 oz. – 64 oz.
- New or clean reusable grocery bags
- Can openers
Items not accepted include food that is not labeled, food that’s cooked, opened items, and canned food that is more than three years past its expiration date.
A local nonprofit organization is hoping to expand its therapeutic riding services for people with disabilities in Great Falls.
Based at 9700 Georgetown Pike, Lift Me Up hopes to extend its services to a new horse barn with eight stables across six acres at 1051 Kelso Road near Difficult Run Stream Valley Park.
The expansion would allow the organization to offer “unmounted” wellness programs for groups such as first responders, veterans, seniors, and youth with mental challenges. The barn would serve as an equine-assisted wellness center for Lift Me Up.
“Wellness sessions are unmounted programs where participants interact with horses to learn lessons from equine behaviors. Riding lessons are not included in Wellness Sessions,” the special permit application says.
Received by Fairfax County on March 28, the application notes that the property could have been purchased by a developer and redeveloped with residential units. Instead, the current owners bought the house and barn to preserve the “serenity of fields with horses grazing.”
“Using the Kelso Road property as a horse barn INCREASES the harmony desired in the general purpose of the zoning district as it keeps the open and rural character of the district,” the application says.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 1975 by Colleen Zanin. It has 11 horses, according to its website.
Len Forkas, a Reston-based businessman, is skiing to the North Pole in a few weeks to break the ice on support for kids with cancer.
The 63-year-old — who is described as an “ultra-endurance athlete” — plans to ski 60 miles to the North Pole in order to raise money for Hopecam, a nonprofit organization he founded that connects children undergoing cancer treatment with their friends.
“I know some people think I’m crazy,” Forkas said. “But I think of myself as crazy about Hopecam’s kids. I hope I’ve convinced everybody that I’ll go to any length to support them.”
For Forkas, the trek is will bring him one step closer to his goal of completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam, a physical challenge that includes a trek to the North Pole, the South Pole, and all the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents, known as the Seven Summits.
So far, Forkas has travelled to five of the Seven Summits. He hopes to check off this physical challenge by August 2024 in time for his 65th birthday.
He plans to fly to a Norwegian village at the end of the month to meet the expedition team. They will then fly to a temporary camp in the Arctic Ocean.
Forkas founded Hopecam through personal struggle.
In 2002, his son, Matt, was diagnosed with leukemia. Forkas received permission from Fairfax County Public Schools to install a webcam in the classroom of a school in Great Falls to make sure Matt could participate. He began competing in ultra-endurance sports at the time of his son’s diagnosis.
“The exercise helped me cope with the stress of Matt’s illness,” he said. Matt, now 30, survived the bout of illness.
Forkas hopes to raise $60,000 for the nonprofit organization by matching the 60 miles he will ski to the North Pole. So far, the campaign has raised over $10,500, as of this morning.
With Hopecam, kids are provided with a tablet computer with a webcam, internet access if it’s unavailable, and assistance to work with the school so they can take part in some classroom activities and see their friends.
The nonprofit organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It aims to overcome the social isolation that kids often experience while they receive cancer treatment.
“His North Pole journey presents a timely opportunity to showcase this noteworthy occasion,” Brett Fox, Hopecam’s development director, said.
With the first day of spring drawing ever closer, the McLean Tree Foundation is gearing up for another season of sprucing up the area’s tree canopy.
For a $100 fee, the local nonprofit is offering to help McLean homeowners plant growing native trees in their yards as part of its Neighborhood Tree Program, which is now in its ninth year.
“Native trees increase biodiversity, enhance ecosystems, provide shelter for wildlife, improve our health and the environment, increase property values, and reduce heating and cooling costs for homeowners,” MTF Chairman Carol Wolter said in a news release. “In short, trees contribute to our well-being!”
Launched in 2014, the Neighborhood Tree Program is the only tree-planting initiative in Fairfax County that’s specifically aimed at homeowners, according to the foundation.
In addition to selecting and delivering a 6 to 12-foot-tall tree, volunteers help with the actual planting, give residents information about how to take care of the tree, and check in after a few months to see how it’s doing.
Plantings occur in the spring and fall, but applications are accepted throughout the year, MTF board member Steve Lagerfeld says. Since it began, the program has added 70 trees in McLean.
The McLean Trees Foundation originated in 1964 as a McLean Citizens Association program whose goal was to plant 300 dogwood, oak and maple trees, according to the foundation’s website.
Using proceeds from a community-wide newspaper recycling campaign to fund tree plantings, the program evolved into a permanent MCA committee in 1980 and incorporated as a standalone organization in 2004.
After the recycling campaign ended in 2014, the foundation says it’s now entirely supported by grants and donations. On top of the Neighborhood Tree Program, MTF has tree sponsorships where donors of $500 or more can get one planted at a public park.
Though they won’t appear among the best director nominees at the Oscars this Sunday (March 12), female and gender non-conforming filmmakers will be celebrated tonight (Wednesday) at the Mosaic District.
The Merrifield neighborhood’s Angelika Film Center (2911 District Avenue) is hosting Lunafest — a traveling film festival that showcases movies by and about women — to mark International Women’s Day.
With doors opening at 6 p.m., the festival will screen seven short films from 7-9 p.m. The screenings will be preceded by a “social hour” with light hors d’oeuvres, drinks and a raffle, according to the event page.
All proceeds will go to Girls on the Run Northern Virginia (GOTR NOVA), a nonprofit based in Fairfax that offers running programs designed to teach girls life skills like teamwork and self-confidence.
“We love hosting Lunafest each year because it allows us to bring our community together to celebrate new perspectives and be inspired by the ideas of what our program participants could become and achieve,” GOTR NOVA Development Manager Catherine Reeves Keller said. “All of the proceeds from the event go back to GOTR NOVA to fund our programming and empower our participants.”
Lunafest was created in 2001 by Luna, a brand of Clif Bar & Company that makes a nutrition bar targeted toward women. Since then, the festival says it has raised over $7 million for nonprofits, featured 175 filmmakers, and hosted over 2,900 screenings in the U.S. and Canada.
The festival lineup includes a mix of live-action and animated films:
Reclaim Your Water: Natasha Smith — As a member of the Ebony Beach Club, Natasha Smith surfs, skates, and makes her own waves.
Miss Chelove: From Java to the Streets of D.C. — As she paints a mural, artist Cita Sadeli (aka Miss Chelove) opens up about her life, her cultural heritage, and how she fell in love with grafti in the 1980s.
Pete — The true story of Pete Barma explores gender identity, Little League Baseball, the people who inspire change by being themselves, and the superheroes who champion that change.
This Is Beth — As celebrated rock climber Beth Rodden grapples with her body image, she rediscovers the love of her sport… and herself.
More Than I Want to Remember — After her southeastern Congo village is bombed, 14-year-old Mugeni sets out on a remarkable solo journey across the globe, determined to reunite with her lost loved ones and lift up the Banyamulenge people.
Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night — All cards are on the table when Noor, a queer Pakistani Muslim woman, brings her Puerto Rican girlfriend, Luz, home for the rst time on the family’s annual game night.
Swimming Through — Amid a brutal Chicago winter and the global pandemic, Deirdre, Helen, and Jennefer’s friendship grows as they commit to a daily sunrise plunge together in Lake Michigan.
Tickets to the festival cost $30 and can be purchased online.
In the future, currently undeveloped land on Route 50 across from Fairfax Towne Center could host housing for adults at the low end of Fairfax County’s income spectrum.
The Reston-based nonprofit Cornerstones Housing Corporation (CHC) has partnered with the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA), which owns the 1.1-acre property, to potentially build a three-story, 34-unit residential building at 12116 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway.
The housing and accompanying supportive services will be specifically designed to serve single adults who have very low or extremely low incomes, which ranges from under 50% of the area median income (AMI) to under 30%, says a rezoning application submitted to the county on Feb. 24.
“The Applicant will provide not only housing, but a comprehensive, holistic program to help low-income individuals regain self-sufficiency,” the developer’s legal agent, Lynn Strobel, wrote in the application, which says the project will help “a demographic not currently served by many affordable housing providers.”
The proposal has been in the works for over a year now, ever since CHC sent the county an unsolicited proposal for a development called Fair Ridge at West Ox.
According to the application, the nonprofit and FCRHA signed an interim agreement for the project on Dec. 22. At a Feb. 22, 2022 board meeting, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, who represents the area, then requested that the county consider amending its comprehensive plan to allow affordable housing on the property.
If the amendment is approved, the site’s permitted density would increase from two to 35 dwelling units per acre. It’s being reviewed by county staff concurrently with the zoning application, which would have a density of about 29 units per acre.
The development arm of Cornerstones, which also provides emergency shelter, basic needs assistance and other services, CHC owns 47 townhouses and 11 condominiums in Reston, Herndon and Centreville, all rented to residents earning 50% or less AMI, per its website.
Totaling 27,000 square feet in size, the 34-foot-tall proposed residential building will have one-bedroom units except for one two-bedroom unit. All units will have a patio or balcony, and amenities will be on the first floor, including an outdoor patio with seats and a grilling station.
CHC is seeking a reduction from the county’s parking requirements to one space per unit. The submitted plan shows a total of 47 surface parking spaces to support the building.
“Based on experience, the Applicant anticipates most of the residents will not have vehicles. In addition, while supportive services will include transportation to doctors, retail and other destinations, a majority of the trips generated…will be during non-peak traffic hours,” Strobel wrote.
The site is adjacent to a medical office building and just southeast of the Fair Oaks police and fire stations. The Harris Teeter-anchored Pender Village Center is also half a mile away.
Fair Ridge at West Ox is the latest residential project to offer mostly or entirely affordable units after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors pledged to add 10,000 new affordable units by 2034. Developments at Dominion Square West in Tysons and the Fairfax County Government Center got approved just last month.
However, an agreement for affordable apartments at Bowman Towne Court in Reston that would’ve also delivered a new library got scrapped on Feb. 8. The developer cited increased costs in a letter notifying the county of its decision.
CHC’s application hasn’t been officially accepted yet for review by county staff.
A new kid-focused community center is opening tomorrow (Thursday) inside a long-vacant space at a Hybla Valley apartment complex.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. for the Communities of Trust Center, a renovated two-story community gathering place within the Creekside Village Apartment complex at 7932 Janna Lee Avenue.
The project comes from the local nonprofit organization Communities of Trust (COT), which works to build trust between public safety agencies and the community, and HomeAid, an organization that builds housing and facilities for nonprofits.
“Within this two-story building, COT will focus on preventive solutions for at-risk youth by providing a safe haven, teaching job skills for employment, and building ties within the community,” the event flyer says.
The new community center in the Franconia District will be a “safe place” for kids to gather, do schoolwork, and participate in structured programs, Communities of Trust Chair Shirley Ginwright told FFXnow.
“This has been a community where there has been a large amount of negative interaction with law enforcement,” she said. “This facility will provide a place for them to go, after they get out of school and while their parents are working.”
The 1,582-square-foot space had been vacant for a decade and was very much in need of renovations, per a press release.
Walls and the kitchen were removed to create a large, open-space area, while vinyl plank flooring was installed throughout. A kitchenette, two water fountains, new lighting, and windows were added. All three bathrooms were renovated as well.
The renovation ended up costing about $125,000, but all the materials, labor, and project management were donated.
Ginwright said creating a space where kids can learn was important, because the pandemic hit this community particularly hard, while setting many students back in terms of reading, writing, and math skills. There will be workshops and programs aimed at helping kids catch up on those skills.
There will also be a number of specialized programs aimed at different interests, including filmmaking, podcast production, and music recording. STEAM education will be a focus too, Ginwright said.
“We will also be engaging with our law enforcement in implementing many of these programs to help build positive relationships and trust,” she said.
The Communities of Trust Committee was first established in late 2014 in response to the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The committee’s intention was to bring together public safety agencies and community representatives to prevent what happened in Ferguson from happening in Fairfax County.
From there, a nonprofit organization was established in 2016. The community center in Hybla Valley is the first of its kind to be built by COT.
A famed comedian and actor won $250,000 for local charity Alice’s Kids by playing “Celebrity Jeopardy.”
At the finale of the annual “Celebrity Jeopardy” tournament that aired Sunday (Feb. 7), Patton Oswalt finished in second place and was awarded a quarter of a million dollars to donate to a charity of his choice.
As first reported by On the MoVe, the stand-up comedian/actor perhaps most known for voicing Remy in the Pixar movie “Ratatouille” chose Alice’s Kids, a Mount Vernon-based nonprofit that provides money to disadvantaged kids for small items like soccer cleats, school trips, and birthday parties.
Our friend and smart guy, @pattonoswalt, just won $250,000!!! He fell ONE DOLLAR short of winning the whole thing! I just spoke to him and he said he was thrilled to get us this money and ordered me to spend it on as many kids as possible. We will, Patton!!!
— Alice's Kids (@alicewillhelp) February 3, 2023
“It’s a huge boost to our budget,” co-founder Ron Fitzsimmons told FFXnow. “This is also now an excuse to go out and tell even more people about what we do.”
This isn’t the first time that Oswalt has contributed to the organization, but this large donation was recognized by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay at the board’s meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 7).
Alice’s Kids was founded about 12 years ago by Fitzsimmons and his sister, Laura Fitzsimmons Peters. Naming the nonprofit after their mother, Alice Fitzsimmons, the siblings grew up in poverty in New York and knew what it meant not to have the money for the opportunities that other kids might.
When Fitzsimmons moved to the D.C. area for law school, he also began to substitute teach at Mount Vernon High School. Once, when he encountered a student who was crying because they couldn’t afford a prom ticket, he helped the student and realized there was a real need for an organization that helps kids with seemingly small items that can make a big difference.
That could mean money to throw a birthday party, a new pair of basketball shoes, or a costume for a part in a school play. Alice’s Kids provides the funds anonymously, often working through schools and social workers.
“We don’t pay for food. We don’t pay for medical assistance,” Fitzsimmons said. “So many other charities do that. We want to be totally unique.”
While Alice’s Kids initially focused on the Mount Vernon neighborhood and surrounding areas, it has expanded to become a national organization and now helps kids across the country.
With that growing reach came attention from some notable figures. It was perhaps 2016 when Fitzsimmons noticed a familiar name on a form for a very generous donation to Alice’s Kids. Read More